When we lived in North Texas, we had a storm cellar a short distance from the back door. Everyone there had these storm cellars in which to take refuge from tornados. That area was known as “Tornado Alley.”
Some of these cellars were under the houses, but that was not a good place for one because people could be trapped by the wreckage of the house, and couldn’t get out.
Ours was about twelve feet square, with two double beds, an iron stove that was a heater, but had two “caps” on the stove top so it could also be used for cooking. The cellar was kept well stocked with food, beds ready for sleeping.
Tornados usually happen from 4: p.m. to 4: a.m. and many a time we had to get up in the middle of the night and dash for the storm cellar, sometimes when it was raining hard, so a change of night-clothes for each of the family was also kept in the cellar.
The cellar, of course, was underground, a stairs leading down to it. The earth was mounded up slightly over the cellar so that the door could have a very slight slant. It was pulled down by a heavy chain to close it, and the chains secured to hooks set in concrete, to prevent the tornados suction pulling the door open. The flatter anything is on the ground, the less likely it is to be picked up.
The only thing protruding above ground was the stove-pipe from the heater. It quite often was blown away, and had to be replaced.
One night there was an especially bad storm approaching, with a lot of wicked lightning. So we all went to the storm cellar. It was Spring, so we didn’t need to have a fire in the heater. There was a bed on each side of the room, the heater between them.
These beds were the old-fashioned fancy iron beds—quite common and plentiful then -(but much sought after now). The rollers or casters were the usual metal ones. The floor and walls of the cellar were concrete.
We were all sitting on the beds eating sandwiches and could hear the roar of the storm and hail, the sound coming down through the stovepipe. Suddenly there was a deafening explosion and blinding flash, a huge ball of fire sort of bounded from bed-post to bed-post.
Lightning had struck the stove pipe above the storm cellar, traveled down it and exploded the cast-iron heater, then leaped to the iron beds. Where each leg of the heater and each leg of the beds touched the concrete floor there was a blackened, burned hole in the floor.
None of us was touching the metal of the beds, or the floor, and none were hit by the pieces of the stove. We were not hurt, just had that odd feeling of shock.
It was one of those stranger than fiction things.